To Teacher Union Or Not To Teacher Union, That Is The Question

Friday, February 25th, 2011

I’m not very interested in politics any more. I used to be when I was young and believed that most people, even those I disagreed with, were at least idealistic. I believed that politics was as it promotes itself to be, “the art of the possible”.

I’m better now. Politics is most certainly not the art of the possible. Politics in not an art of any kind. It is generally an embarrassing attempt by the selected or powerful few to dictate terms to the vast majority, and about all that politics seems to make possible these days is an unpunished defiling of the law and/or of the constitution by politicians.

I’m even less interested in big business, or business of any kind. I know, I know, “the business of America is business.” Nonsense. Each business only exists to provide a service or product that we hope will improve existence in some way, and to provide jobs and sustenance to as many people as possible, at least on the social and societal level. That’s all a business, regardless of its size, is really good for. The actual business of America is not the support of its businesses, but (should be) the development of a good and useful future, and the earnest support of its citizens.

Politicians and businessmen generally share one distasteful trait – self-interest. Given the condition of the world we live in, I think we’re all going to need to get it together and care for a little bit more than “number one”. We do not live in caves anymore, we live in cities, in a civilization shared with billions. Time to grow up and adjust. Since we are fighting against remarkable levels of self-interest in this regard, I have little hope that politicians or businessmen will get on board, and even less interest in their doings.

I am, however, very interested in our children. I am interested in anything we can do to empower them. I am interested in any approach that will allow each child to locate and pursue his dream, no matter how unique or divergent, so long as his efforts are constructive and pro-civilization.

And so I am morbidly interested in people and forces that work to slow our children down or stop them. I want to know about them. I want them gone.

There have been teachers for as long as there have been Human Beings. Some are time-honored, such as Plato, who opened the first western school, or Confucius, whose ideas about education and life are still studied by hundreds of millions. Many other good teachers have lived lives of quiet service, making their contribution in and their mark on their students, and through their students to uncounted others.

One of my closest friends was a gentleman who taught economics at the university level. He was a very good man, a conscientious teacher and loving family man and friend. As he was approaching his death (cancer, sorry to say), we had a talk. He told me that he feared he’d accomplished nothing. Just as a side bar, he came up with the idea of the portable pension (he was an econ professor), and got it to Congress where it became the law of the land and rescued the pensions of heaven knows how many families. He also ran 11 economics departments for various colleges in Southern California. He even ran for political office. He was a reason I believed in politics when I was young.

I reminded my friend that he had taught thousands of students. He’d taught economics, a useful subject that even has a practical application. One must assume that most of his students went on to have a life, even a family, or the species would soon cease to exist. What he taught those students helped those families survive and prosper, so who could say how many lives he’d touched and helped. My friend seemed strangely surprised at the thought that he’d helped thousands of people. I was surprised that he was surprised.

My friend was a teacher, by profession and by calling. He was also a proud member of the Los Angeles Teachers Union. I would propose to you that he was a teacher first, a father, a husband, a friend, a political force, a religious man…and then, somewhere farther down the list, a union member. His union was far less important to him than the successful education of the students in his care.

He was a uniquely sane man who did not care overly much about income or perks. If they had “enough” to pay bills and see some of the world, he and his wife, also a wonderful teacher, were happy and satisfied. I think they would have both been surprised and perhaps appalled at what is happening today in Wisconsin, but not for the reasons you may suspect.

I learned something from them as a teacher. The students come first. The student’s needs come first. Students’ needs and the successful delivery of an education stand as a priority far above union affiliations or paychecks. Period, end of discussion. You are not a “professional teacher” or a teacher of any sort because you get paid. You are a teacher when every day, your students get brighter, smarter, more capable, more able to understand the world around them and bend it to their wishes and dreams. Pay is a happy secondary result of being a real teacher.

Pay is also an unhappy drag on the nation’s economy when it is delivered to people who see teaching as a profession rather than a calling. Teachers unions are not about the calling of teaching. They only involve themselves in the profession of teaching. These unions engender and protect teacher pay, teacher tenure, teacher security, teacher rights. They defend teachers who abuse students or the system.

Please do not kid yourselves, folks. Teachers unions in no way promote education. They exist solely to support the self-interested needs and wants of teachers, and of the unions themselves. Now, I’m not even implying that teachers do not deserve to make a living and be supported – when they actually do what a teacher is supposed to do, as described above. How many teachers in the unions actually get the desired result? I’m afraid the percentages would be quite low. Teachers, thanks to their unions, seem to have plenty of time to take three month holidays, sabbaticals, and apparently to march out of the schools to protest, as we are seeing in states like Wisconsin today.

Yes, they have lots of free time. There is a video on YouTube posted this morning that shows teachers in Wisconsin last night, in a room where government business supposedly takes place. There are a lot of teachers there, and they repeatedly strike their arms through the air and shout in a self-involved mantra the word “shame”.

Shame. Yes, shame. Shame on these “professional teachers”. Are they marching and shouting to demand better service and results for their students? No, they are not, and never have. Are they demanding better tools or better results from themselves? Of course not. Teachers may mumble or complain quietly about poor results, but they don’t want too much attention from YOU brought to these things, so they would certainly never march and shout about them.

The teachers in Wisconsin are marching and shouting and gesturing to protect their union, their right to collective bargaining, their sweet, well-paid existence in which they are paid paid paid without any regard to results, good or bad. Take a look:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGDp581g9t0

To teachers union or not to teachers union? If teachers unions existed even in part to protect students and to guarantee teacher performance, than I’d vote teacher unions, yea! They do not, however. And as students have no union, children remain unrepresented in the government/union brouhaha.

Unions were born to protect workers’ rights. I believe in that idea. Workers should be protected and paid for their work. But teachers should not be coddled, paid exorbitant salaries and perks – and then FAIL, and in many cities, in over half of their assignments. In any other profession it’s understood that repeated failure means unemployment. Other unions grasp this idea fairly readily. Not teachers unions, however. They only understand membership dues and how to protect them with marching feet, crying voices and impassioned, gesticulating arms.

Children first. Students first.

Unions have jacked up the price of education to astronomical levels in the United States. They have protected abusive teachers. They demand that poorly performing teachers remain on the job, damaging students and paying dues. Unions are both politics and big business as usual. And this is what the teachers of Wisconsin are protesting in favor of?

I vote teacher unions “nay” when they hurt children. Let’s call the roll.
_____

As you probably know, I am an advocate for homeschooling. It’s my belief that homeschooling potentially provides a student with a vastly superior education than schooling in any form. This is backed up by a lot of numbers and research. I’ve taught for public and private schools, at the University level, as a private instructor in thousands of workshops, and as a homeschool dad running a homeschool group. Homeschooling by far works best for most students- and most families.

But I understand that many parents do not believe they can effectively homeschool. They’ve been told that they “don’t have degrees,” and that they “aren’t qualified.” This is all nonsense, of course. You’re legally not required to have any kind of a degree to homeschool your kids anywhere in the U.S. A lot of people who have degrees and who call themselves “professional teachers” are simply awful, and even destructive at what they do. A lot of parents…hundreds that I know of…have homeschooled their kids right into universities and careers.

In a serious effort to make homeschooling easier to do, and more commonly successful in terms of education received, I’ve authored my own curriculum. It took some 15,000 hours to write, over more than a decade of work, and is intended to replace the need for schooling a student from age 5-Adult Continuing Education. The curriculum is called Connect The Thoughts (or “CTT”). It has been used by over 20,000 students worldwide over the past 10 years. Hundreds of “success stories” attest to how well CTT works.

CTT courses are written in a way that gradually allows the student to take over his own education. Each course itself largely does the teaching, relieving mom and dad of that duty unless they wish to use our daily lesson plans in various subjects as springboards for family discussion and discovery – as many families do, every day. The parent has the job of making certain the student is working and has what they need to study. (And you’ll need to find a good math program for homeschooling as we don’t provide one. There are many.)

Below are links to our site discussing each level of curriculum, and every subject at that level that we offer. (You can start any level at any time. We don’t have “semesters” that start at a certain time, and each course stands alone well.) You’ll find free videos describing how every subject and each level works. You’ll discover free samples of every course we offer. Our site offers many other services and surprises, including numerous free courses you can download and try out.

Starter is for ages 5-6, and for preliterate students of any age. It focuses on starting to develop literacy skills, while teaching about various subjects. Starter includes full two-year programs in Reading, History, Science, Creative Writing, and Living Your Life, courses that develop life and study skills for the youngest students. Every lesson plan at the Starter level works to develop literacy.

Elementary is for ages 7-8, and for students who are developing literacy. It includes two-year programs in Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing (which also teaches the parts of language at this level), and Living Your Life courses which develop life and study skills in preparation for more advanced studies to come.

Lower School (ages 9-10) offers two-year programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, P.E. Electives, and in various arts such as Animation, Music Theory, and Acting. At this level, students must read fairly well, and studies are progressively turned over to the student.

Upper School (ages 11-High School, and Adult Continuing Education) provides programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, Current Events, Literature Guides, P.E. Electives, and in arts such as Animation, Acting, Music Theory, and Music History.

For parents who wish to teach at home, but are intimidated at the thought, and for parents who just wish to improve the homeschool experience, we offer a ten course homeschool program for homeschool teachers, as well as several books about education and homeschooling today.

We want you and your children to win with homeschooling!

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11 comments on “To Teacher Union Or Not To Teacher Union, That Is The Question”


  1. Linda Clark says:

    While I’m not a fan of unions they serve a purpose for teachers everywhere. If people think we get a break on medical they are idiots. This year I paid $1400 a month for my hussband to be included on my medical plan and it wasn’t even that good a plan. My retirement, God Bess em…will be $2000 a month after 20 years of teaching, and did I say I have a 40 thousand dollar student loan to pay off. Okay, now that was the perks of the job, how about the stress of the continually changing laws that impede our abiltiy to gain mastery in any area. Enough said….I Teach for the Children….SHOW ME THE MONEY….from California

  2. Hi Linda, and thanks for writing, but I’m going to take issue, as you doubtless imagined I would.

    Yes, unions DO serve a purpose for teachers everywhere. They protect teacher pay, teacher tenure, teacher rights, teacher’s poor performance, and spend many millions of dollars in Washington making sure that all these things go up, up, up while teacher performance goes down, down, down. They do NOT, however, serve the needs of students EVER, the very reason that your union and profe4ssion should exist. Yes, you DO get a break on medical, a break few others get in other professions, as you are on the public payroll. I’m sorry if it wasn’t a “good medical plan”, as you say, but if you’d look at the huge number of unemployed and others with NO insurance, I think you might retract your rather self-involved statement. You HAVE a $2,000 retirement! Do you know how few people will ever get to claim anything like that, after at least as long in the fields as you spent? And you have stress on your job? WHO DOESN’T? I think your comments are a good demonstration of exactly what I’m talking about – the arrogance and sense of entitlement that public school teachers seem to almost universally suffer from.

    I hope that you rise above your myopic world view soon and take a good look at the world and people around you. Thanks again for the courage to write, but PLEASE wake up.

  3. I understand that teacher’s unions at the national level really do little for teachers and less for students. Honestly, our educational system is the way it is because we, the people, have allowed it to happen. We have gone to sleep at the wheel and allowed our government to go willy-nilly and do whatever it wants in many different areas including education.

    A teacher’s experience on the job is highly influenced by what school system that they work for. Yes, they have 2 1/2 – 3 months off in the summer, depending on their job title and how many days of teacher in-service are required. They also have to be available from the time children start showing up at school until the last one leaves plus they take home papers to grade and lessons to plan. They also only get 9 sick days and 0 paid vacation days during the school session. They do not get paid for those 3 months that school is not in session. Some school systems do give them the option of being paid for their 9 months of work in 9 payments or 12, others do not.

    It is a stressful job to be a teacher, that is very different from other jobs. If you have a corporate job and your boss or your co-worker is difficult to work with you can avoid that person. If you have a classroom full of children and one of them is difficult for you to work with you still have them in your classroom every day. I don’t know about you, but I would not want to be corralling 30 children all day.

    Students can pretty much do whatever they like, because discipline in the school system is almost non-existent anymore. Teachers aren’t aloud to spank, neither is the principle. They cannot even give the student any kind of discipline that might embarrass the child in front of their peers. This includes things like sending a child to the corner or even speaking to them about an incident within earshot of the classroom.

    Add to that stress when teachers are forced to use certain curriculum, as written, even when the curriculum has blatant mistakes. And then we want to punish those teachers when their students do not score well on the standardized tests.

    All requiring high test scores does, is cause everyone to “teach to the test” talk about making kids not want to learn. . .

    The solution is not the union or legislation or having teachers rewarded or punished. The solution is for the parents and the community to get involved in the school system at all levels. That means going to the school board meetings. That means making informed choices when voting for all of your elected officials and making your voice heard when legislation comes up that you agree or disagree with.

    There are some really great teachers in our school system. There are some really lousy teachers. There are many teachers who are just as disillusioned with the education system as the rest of us, and many of them have decided that they cannot make a difference and just quit trying. There is quite a bit of lousy legislation out there that ties the hands of the good teachers so they cannot teach.

    In my part of the country teachers make half or less of what someone with similar education would make in the corporate world, even when you take into consideration that they get paid for 9 months instead of 12. They do not have tenure here, though I understand that it is available in other areas of the country. Most teachers are teachers because they want to help. Trust me, anyone who can do math would not be in it for the financial benefits.

    Just my observations from growing up in the teacher’s lounge.

  4. Hi Annie,

    Thanks for a thoughtful and thorough response! It’s appreciated. I’d now like to respond to your response.

    Parents get NO sick days. The unemployed get NO sick days, they must find ways to feed their families. You said you’ve spent years in the teachers lounge, and then said you’d not want to corral 30 children a day. Assuming you were employed as a teacher, as it sounds like you’ve done in your response…what WERE you doing all those years? And teachers do NOT make 1/2 of what the corporate world makes! the AVERAGE STARTING salary for a teacher in the U.S. in over $42,000 – for 9 months work. That comes to close to &60,000 a year, adjusted for the time off. I think a lot of corporate workers WISH they made $120,000, or even $60,000, for that matter. And the PERKS teachers get – magnificent perks! Add that into your figures, Annie, to provide a more responsible and true number. All this – and an insanely high drop out rate, terrible test scores, random abuses against students which this blog is unfortunately full of reportage on…you name it! And it’s teacher, unions and government that caused this silliness.

    Look, if you don’t believe in “teaching to a test” (and you should NOT), then DON’T. Change the system. You’re a teacher, and your first concern should be your students, not adherence to the system that has failed them so that you can keep your job. Get in there and FIGHT to change this system that you yourself claim not to like very much. Or stop pretending to be anything other than what you likely are, Annie – a shill for the educational institutions of America that have come perilously close to sinking generations of young minds.

    You ask that people get involved with schools? I say we close them and replace them with supported homeschooling, oriented around the individual student and his needs, interests and skills. You ask parents and others to get involved with the system that in many places over 1/2 the kids have fled from? That really smacks of throwing good money (and other resources) after very, very bad.

    Do your students seem undisciplined to you, as you complain of? The system won’t allow you to discipline them? Really? Yet, if you read other posts here, you’ll see situations in public schools all ove4r the country where children were handcuffed or pepper-sprayed! There’s just too many documented cases of abuse for this part of your argument to hold any water.

    You seem like an intelligent person, Annie. Quit your teaching job, stop proselytizing for schools and teachers, and back up your apparent concern for children with real and formative action. But don’t pretend to agree with those who clearly see the failure of our schools, and advise them that schools are really alright and just need more support. That’s just too close to the position of the teachers unions, of which I’m certain you are a proud member.

  5. LOL. . .I apologize. I should have given you more background on my experience. :)

    I was a teacher’s kid. Both of my parents were teachers for 30+ years and I grew up in the school system and spent a good many hours in the teacher’s lounge and the teacher’s workroom. I sat at the back of many an AEA, NEA, and AFT meeting, along with being at school on teacher workdays.

    I am currently a teacher in my own little homeschool, but I have never been a “professional teacher”.

    There are many teachers in the trenches who are fighting the good fight to change the system. I strongly believe that our communities need to get involved with our schools, because I think that the system itself is the problem. If a good portion of our population got involved in the different levels of the school system, I think that it would become more and more apparent that the system doesn’t work. And with everyone involved something better could be established. Unfortunately too many parents view the school system as a glorified babysitter, and too many non-parent members of the community think that it doesn’t effect them. I did not mean to imply that “schools are really alright and just need more support”, but that the community as opposed to the government should be the ones deciding how a system of education should be run. As “schooling” and “education” are not the same thing.

    My portrait of discipline in the schools was very one sided. I have seen both extremes in discipline, where nothing was done or a slap on the wrist was all that was allowed to be given along with the other extreme where children were unfairly punished and/or abused in the name of discipline. Both are bad for students and teachers.

    I am in Arkansas. Last I heard, a beginning teacher with a bachelor’s degree could expect to make $25,000 a year and was expected to be at school for “duty” by 7am and to stay on campus until 5pm each and every school day (no hour long lunch break, you eat with your students). A corporate job around here starting pay is between 50-60k. I understand that is different in different places. Health Insurance seems to be about equally priced in comparison between the two. As teachers have similar educational expectations, I think that this is a fair comparison. Though, half, I will agree was a bit of an overstatement. Again different school systems in different areas will have different pay rates and different policies.

    I don’t think that we can fairly compare being unemployed to being employed in any capacity. As far as parents getting sick days, well. . .you are right, no sick days, but if I have the flu we are all taking off from school and watching movies all day and not going out and exposing a whole bunch of people. I am very happy to give everyone at every job sick days so they don’t have to expose others when they get sick.

    You suggest that all teachers should teach the way they see fit no matter what their school system says. I think all that will do is degrade the school system even more, as all the better teachers are fired and replaced with mindless drones who are happy to follow the status quo and have even less concern for their students. That is what happened to John Taylor Gatto. I have not read enough of your blog to know, but I am sure you are already very familiar with him. Many teachers also have families that they need to support. Would you suggest that bankers need to quit their jobs because their loans are enslaving people? or that they start taking money out of the register to give to the unemployed so they can join their ranks? I think that we need good teachers inside the system as well as involved communities to demolish the current school system and build a system that truly educates the next generation.

    The school system will not change until we the people insist upon it. As I talk to people I find them to be in one of 5 camps. 1) I don’t have kids or I homeschool, and therefor the public educational system does not effect me. 2) School is free babysitting. (It isn’t free, but don’t try telling them that.) 3) They blame themselves or their kids for not being smart instead of the system for failing them, and therefor hope and pray that their kids will do better than they did. 4) They did well in school because they played the games well without realizing that it was all games and had nothing to do with learning, therefore they think the system must work. 5) They are awake like us and are fighting either from within or without in the best way they know how.

    BTW many of our teachers are teachers because they were in that 4th category. Many of them really wanted to help those around them that they saw struggling, but did not realize that the struggling was because of a failing system and not a lack of intelligence. A smaller group of those, after teaching for a while realized that it was the system that was at fault and moved to category 5, most of the rest decided that they just weren’t good teachers blaming themselves instead of the system.

    I moved from a category 4 to a category 5 at the age of 15 when the D student sitting behind me in algebra class could run circles around me mathematically. I had the top grade in the class, and this student had a D. All of my years of steeping in the system kool-aid couldn’t explain that. Up until that point I had believed that the school system just needed some tweaking. . .like allowing students to work at their own level without as much regard to age. As I began to look around I saw very intelligent people all around me, their grades did not reflect their brilliance. These people blamed themselves and believed that they were dumb. My opinions have formed over the years since then from observing people, asking questions, and gleaning from other people’s experiences as well as my own.

  6. Annie,

    I really appreciate your thoughtfulness, but I’m afraid I’m going to disagree with some of your contentions again. First, there are NOT many teachers “fighting the good fight”. After all, teachers are paid to do just that, and there are literally many hundreds of thousands of them paid to do so in the U.S. – yet things in education continue to degrade. They most certainly are not fighting any good fights except for their salaries and perks, with some stellar exceptions, all too few. This is also why everyone getting involved in the schools would be a disaster. Education isn’t a numbers game, it’s about quality, not quantity. Large numbers of people randomly plugging into the current system of schooling will do the following: 1) Swamp and overwhelm an already failed system, as it is not built in any way to manage or utilize large numbers of contributors; 2) Create even greater amounts of confusion in the form of contentious approaches to education multiplied many times over what it is now and given weight and volume; 3) Allow into schools a small number of psychos who most certainly have no good intentions toward kids. The schools have already demonstrated that they can in no way successfully screen for such sickos. opening the door to anyone and everyone will open the door to a much increased likelihood of abuses. I will bet you that teachers and administrators would agree with me on these points, one of the few areas in which we might agree.

    That said, I like your idea that the more people look at the system, the more they will understand and see that it has failed. On this point, you and I agree. I, on the other hand, do not believe the educational system is worthy of attempted salvation, having been given over 150 years in the United States so far, to get it right. I am done holding my breath waiting for teachers and administrators to right the ship. Either they do not know and have never known how to do so, or they do not WISH to right it. They find it to their advantage to keep students and families controlled and dumbed down. Now why would they do such a thing? For that one, read my book, Poor Cheated Little Johnny. Suffice to say, I believe this entire process that has resulted in a rotten educational system is intentional and malicious. After all, to paraphrase your own argument, there are many “fighting the good fight” – and yet, things get worse. So there must be many MORE fighting the “bad fight” in public (and private school) education, and they are certainly winning that war.

    Throughout history, homeschooling was THE central path to education, until 150 years ago. Today, homeschoolers are fighting a “guerrilla” war, and I believe we had best get organized to succeed, or the all-too well organized teachers and their unions will choke off our legal and moral right to homeschool. They are working very hard right now to do exactly that. They have money, organization, and are among the most powerful lobbies in Washington. We must unite on some level, and I personally believe that we should start by agreeing that schooling, and the tools of schooling, are miserable failures at best, and control mechanisms in the hands of some very nasty people at worst. We must stop trying to rationalize and justify what schools do. we must stop believing in the fairy tale that a little more money, a little more involvement on the part of like-minded good people, will turn the tide.

    Schools DO NOT EXIST TO EDUCATE. They exist to control. They exist to limit children and their ambitions. They exist to support the very thing President Eisenhower warned us to fear – the military-industrial complex. And schools suck up a huge percentage of our national budget and resources in the process of controlling and degrading students and their families. I think it’s time to become very UNreasonable about schools. I believe it’s simply time to close them down.

    You seem like a good-hearted person, Annie, and I wish you well. But I really think you should reconsider your view of schools. And for the record, my understanding of Gatto, who was “Teacher of the Year” in NYC a long time ago, is that he left public schooling because he could not abide their hypocrisy. I’m with him on that, though I think he’s done a lot on pointing fingers and raising awareness, a good thing, but not much to solve the problem. To that end, I spent over 10 years authoring a homeschool curriculum which could replace schooling entirely. It’s called Connect The Thoughts. It was authored for my children, and then others discovered it and its value to their families and children. I have put my money where my mouth is – I sold my very nice house 6 years ago to be able to complete authoring that curriculum, which is now complete, and I offer it as a partial solution to homeschoolers, a way of helping guarantee that homeschool moms and dads have the tools they will need to help their children triumph in their education. Let’s not talk too much longer, folks. Let’s not hope for the best. God helps those who help themselves. Thomas Jefferson once said (paraphrasing) that a little revolution, now and then, is a good thing. In the area of education, I think we’re overdue for a good revolution.

  7. I think that we both agree on what the problem is: The school system is a big, fat FAIL that exists to control the population instead of educate them.

    If I am understanding you correctly (from what I have read here and from a little poking around on your site) I think we have very similar views on what the ideal, final solution should be: That we go back to a system of true education more like what we had more than 150 years ago, consisting of homeschooling, private tutors, “dame schools”, and possibly some private parent-run schools.

    I think that we differ a little on the who is to blame for where we are now.
    I don’t know how many teachers that you know or have polled, so you may have more insight here than I do. Out of the 150 or so teachers I have known well or had the opportunity to speak with, I would say that all of them either believe what they are doing is attempting to help their students or else they are very good actors. I believe that they are being controlled along with their students. Maybe I am naive on this. I think that many of them are asleep along with the rest of society, the rest I think are doing the best that they believe they can.

    Do I believe that the school administrators are in on the agenda? I am sure that some are, I think this area is probably a toss up.

    Teachers Unions: On the local level, I don’t think they are intending to be part of the problem. . .By the national level, I am sure that they are.

    Government: You bet!

    I think that we agree on what needs to happen, just not on how to get there: I don’t think that we can get there with an asleep populous. Which is where we are right now. I think that for the average person getting involved in the current system, realizing that it doesn’t work, and making a complete mess trying to fix it is part of the learning and transitional process. As more people wake up and homeschool their children or move back to some of the other old paths that are available in some areas, I think that will also help to raise awareness and help more of the populous to wake up.

    I don’t think that the school system can or should be abolished overnight. Not because I think that there is anything redeemable about it, but because all of the families that I know that have started homeschooling even if they started in kindergarten, went through an adjustment period of getting their heads wrapped around the homeschooling concept. If it takes an adjustment period for those of us who want to homeschool, I think that our country would take at least as long to readjust. I think people need to be fully aware, in a hands-on way as to how the school system is a fail in order for the change to be able to stick.

    Homeschooling is not easy. The idea is simple, the actions aren’t hard, but when you take on full responsibility for your children’s education there really is a responsibility curve there. It shouldnt’ be, but we have been conditioned that “experts” are needed for such a task.

    Right now most of our population believes that the school system is responsible for their child’s education. They believe that if they just sacrifice their children at the temple of education every morning the priests of education (teachers) will bless their children and make them magically succeed at life. Most parents believe that without the final paper of blessing (diploma), their child will be doomed to menial labor for the rest of their lives. Now there is little basis for these beliefs, and having a diploma did not make the parents successful or happy in most cases, but they still hold to this dogma of propaganda they were taught. I think that most of the teachers still worship at the altar of the almighty deploma, even many of the ones that know the system is at the least flawed.

    The system is falling down, many of our systems are. I agree that we need a revolution, and revolution is not going to come at the ballot box or the PTA meeting.

    So how do you propose that we awaken enough of the sleeping populous, parents, teachers, and others who are sleepwalking through this maze to get everyone moving in the right direction? (If you already have an article on this, I don’t expect you to rewrite it here. Just point me in the right direction.) There have to be more steps than just shut the current system off. I think that if we just shut the schools down tomorrow that chaos would ensue. You would be amazed at how many calls the school officials get when they declare a snow day, irate parents calling to complain, “what am I supposed to DO with my kids? I have to work, you know.” Until a good portion of the population realizes that the current system is not working, that there is a better way, and support for that better way is in place. . .what are we to do, but work to get that better way in place and encourage those around us to wake up?

    I think that you are working toward that aim with your site and your curriculum. I believe that I am doing my part to, by homeschooling my children and being able to talk to the people that cross my path about my experiences with homeschooling and with the school system.

    I agree with you that the teachers are part of the problem and that they could be part of the solution. I disagree with what I understand you to be saying which is that they know they are part of the problem and are intentionally so. I think that most of them are asleep or naive, thinking that the system works or is just slightly flawed and that they are working toward the solution. The ones that are awake, I believe, are barely so and there is little support for them in how to make changes. I think that we who want to change the system too often make the mistake of alienating the people within the system who with a little guidance could become some of our biggest allies.

    I am the child of two school teachers from a small enough town that if you asked the first 3 people you met on the street about me, at least 2 of them would know who I was and at least one of them could probably bore you with a good deal of information about me (though some of it might just be rumor). I have had the opportunity to watch some of the teachers I know there wake up, at least a little, just because of them talking with me and my children. This is why I believe that they are asleep, that they don’t realize that there really is another way.

    The teachers have been indoctrinated in this system too. They have been steeped in the kool-aid for much longer than the students or the rest of society. Most of them have never lived a life outside of the schooling system. By the time they were 5 they were in the system 5 days a week. Most of them excelled in the system because they liked to please people and pleasing “teacher” made them feel valued at school and at home. They went on to college and decided to become part of the system because that system had made them feel valued and worthwhile. After college they went right on into the same system. They have never known anything different. The ones I have talked to that know the system is failing, don’t know what to do about it except keep working harder trying to either make it succeed or to reach at least a few students and help them. They are just waking up. Many of them have families of their own and a massive amount of student loan debt. Would they be helping the nation any more by joining the unemployment line? They don’t know what else to do but be a teacher. I think that they are doing the best they can, where they are, with what they have. I also think that we have an opportunity to show them a better way.

    I do not begrudge teachers reasonable pay, benefits, or retirement. Yes, we paid for those and we pay their salaries. We also pay the salaries of our military whether we agree with their assignment or not. We pay their retirement too. And both groups, I believe are doing the best they know how in their respective systems. Until we build another system (a system of support for homeshchoolers and other methods) don’t we need the system that we have in place?

    I mentioned earlier that I would not want a classroom of 30 kids. It really is a hard job. I would choose to go dig ditches before I would choose to go be a classroom teacher. Yes, I think the job is that difficult. Not because the specifics of the job are difficult, but that putting all the different pieces together and dealing with the politics within the school, the demands and legislation that tie the teacher’s hands to be able to really teach, and those students who really don’t want to be there. I believe that I could walk in and manage a classroom and that I could do the job. It is what I was groomed to do from the cradle. I just don’t want to.

    Could/would I take on a group of kids who wanted to learn in a homeschooling co-op type environment? Yep, I would enjoy it and be very good at it.

    I have not given up things that I already had for this movement. My husband and I already knew that I was going to stay at home and that we were going to homeschool our children before we got married. We have just lived a simpler life from the start because of it.

    I agree that praying, hoping, and talking about change are not going to bring the change we need. I agree that the sooner the change happens the better. I believe that there is a better way to do it and that we are doing our best to show others the better way. I also believe that change takes time. Time that we don’t have, but still time. I have not written any curriculum, but I have been one of the ones in my circle of influence that moms call when they don’t know if they can homeschool anymore or that they call when they are worried that they cannot teach their children. I have also been one that has built bridges with teachers to show them that homeschooling can work and plant seeds in their mind that there might be another way. Maybe the teachers I have met are unique, but I doubt it.

    Just my 2cents. :)

  8. Hi Annie,

    Long post! I congratulate you on your thoughtfulness and thoroughness. Let me respond to some of what you wrote here.

    I AGREE that teachers have been set up to fail themselves and their students, as you indicate, and as doubtless you ran into in other posts and articles I wrote, as you poked around. I believe that the tools they were taught to use as a part of “standard education” today are ruinous. These include teacher evaluations of students, administrative evaluations of teachers, testing, grading, grade levels, classrooms, socialization, and nearly every tool “modern education” has consistently used for the past century and more. As these tools have been increasingly employed, and inculcated into a system of education,results have increasingly diminished until we have the train wreck that we today call “institutional education”. On this point, we are in agreement.

    But WHERE did these tools come from? Many came from such “luminaries” as John Dewey, a psychologist who experimented with education in the early 1900s, using both teachers and students as guinea pigs to “discover” many of the methods we use today, and which have ruined more lives than we can count. He did so to help create adults ready to enter into big business in America as menial laborers. And his ideas are largely the foundation for education today! Same goes for socialization, invented by Charles Cooley as a term and a process around 100 years ago. Mr. Cooley was a fan of class systems, and the individual as a cog in society rather than as an individual. These men gave us our system.

    And who perpetuates that system? Who has contact with many students every day, and so should most clearly and immediately be able to see the horrific effects of the on-going use of such destructive tools? TEACHERS. Your friends, the ones you mentioned you’ve known or spoken to some 150 of. (That is a lot of teachers, Annie! I figure I’ve worked with maybe 2-3 times that number, however, in the three private schools I taught at, as well as at U.S.C. where I taught for a while, LAUSD, where I taught for a while, etc.) The point? Teachers not only should know – they DO know! They can most certaimnly see the lives they daily ruin. Some teachers do feel frustration at the poor results their training and methodology seem to generate. Good for them – but they don’t change their approach much, do they. They don’t quit, leaving behind generous salaries and benefits. Nope. What they do is bite their tongues, attempt to not buck the system, take long vacations to escape the scene of the crime for a while, and ruin the lives of children and their families. These people who you think are good and concerned continue on a daily basis to drain our nation’s economy while delivering into the civilization students who can’t read or write, are functionally illiterate in ever-increasing numbers, who hate education and are learning in many cases to actually value stupidity and small-mindedness, and who, generation after generation, become an increasing blight on any hope for a grand future that we may have had. These are your friends, Annie, who you’ve spoken to, over 150 of them. A few teachers DO buck the trend, use other resources and methods, and gain decent to stellar results – but the number and percentage is very small, as can clearly be seen from the apocalyptic failure of their “products” – including drop out rates and test scores that any other industry would be shut down for.

    More. We AGREE that the system cannot be changed by an “asleep populace” (your words, and I tend to agree). But HOW to wake them, Annie? They are the product of the work your friends, the teachers, have done over the past 100 years! We are often severely undereducated, unless we were self-motivated to learn, and that, outside of school. As mentioned, functional literacy, the ability to glean information one may understand and use from a document, is on severe decline, so how do we educate this “asleep populace”? I think that the next generation coming up may be our final hope in this regard. Hence I continue to develop and discuss my curriculum, which I believe to be a good tool for helping to build individuals, people who CAN and WILL think, and who will have sufficient information at their beck and call (and the ability to ascertain right and wrong, opinion and fact, from within that “information”)to make good (if radical) decisions that will serve to support and expand upon civilization. If I’m wrong, I am not sure where educational salvation comes from. Certainly not our ridiculous, expensive, failed institutional education system. They clearly have only answers intended to destroy.

    We AGREE – government has a hand in this disaster. The elected and other officials we have empowered for many decades have proven beyond any doubt or argument that GOVERNMENT DOES NOT KNOW THE FIRST THING ABOUT EDUCATION! So why do we continue to support their effort, after over a century of disgusting results? How stupid are we, really? They (those in government) must think that we are rather spectacularly stupid to continue to fund public schooling in the face of such results. They, obviously, are right, at least about our stupidity.

    Sadly, oh so sadly, I do AGREE that public schooling cannot be abolished overnight. It will take a few years to do it right. School facilities will need to be rededicated to the uses of homeschoolers and private citizens. Those really cool theaters, art rooms, football and baseball fields, etc – we should all have access in a scheduled, and sharing way. Additionally, those hundreds of thousands of teachers will need to be relocated into appropriate jobs, jobs that they can actually do. Given ho well they’ve trained tens of millions, hundreds of millions of students over the past 150 years to be good and mindless manual laborers, perhaps we could now return the favor? Let’s send them to training camps that will prep them for jobs at McDonalds and the like – just as they have done to oh so many students. That seems quite just to me, though it might put many young people out of that first, um, valuable “starter job”. Even teachers deserve some kind of job, I guess. But no more ridiculous perks, sky-high salaries and year-long holidays. Sorry, they’ll have to actually work for the minimum wage they will have been trained to receive.

    A few of the true and bright stars among our teaching population could and should be retained as tutors, homeschool mentors, that sort of thing. If they get great results, we should absolutely allow them to stay on. But this, of course, is an entirely result-oriented approach, totally unlike what we have today, the system perpetrated by teacher unions that protects teachers jobs without any regard for the teacher’s results. And teachers unions, oh, in my world, they are long gone, closed down, discredited, embarrassed to have existed beyond the point where they protected teachers (and students) from workplace abuses, their first and only real assignment. They certainly never cared a jot for the students, we can all clearly see this is so in the results.

    Well, this is getting long, so let’s end off. I commend you heartily for homeschooling, Annie! Yes, that is certainly a part of the solution – so long as you are not using the same destructive and critical approach inculcated by schools and “educators”. Homeschool is a sacred and ancient right. We have the right to educate our children as parents, as we see fit! And homeschooling should and must provide the freedom to toss out failed systems and approaches. We must be allowed to do what will actually work! Then we will be able to make a true start at creating an “awake” generation, one which will know what to do with the small lifeboat we’ll have deeded them. Thanks for your thoughtful essay, again!

  9. This has been a great conversation. It has really given me another opportunity to evaluate my opinions and hone in on what I truly believe. I appreciate that you took the time to have this conversation as opposed to labeling me a “troll” and banning me from your site.

    The homeschooling movement has come a long way in the last 20+ years since I was first introduced to it. My cousins began homeschooling when I was in 3rd grade, and the majority of the curriculum choices that were available were the same textbooks used in the public schools. The difference between then and now is huge just in relation to what is available for homeschoolers, and advancing every year.

    I am looking forward to a future where homeschooling is the norm. I think that there are many hurdles that will have to be jumped by our society. Too many of our society are so deep in debt that they cannot see a way to bring one parent home to homeschool the children. It is a sad slavery that keeps parents tied to their jobs and the next generation trapped in a failing system.

    A few years ago the Southern Baptists started talking about a “mass Exodus” from the public school system. It was this same slavery that kept all of those parents from being able to follow through on that plan.

    I think our “awake” generation is going to have to be a which-came-first sort of situation. We need to get enough people awake to change the system, in order to get more people awake, so that education in our country can become about real learning, which would cause more people to be more awake, and it just spirals along from there.

    I don’t think this can happen in just a few years, but I do think that in 5 years we will have made more strides toward this than we made in the last 5 years. I am seeing young adults who’s parents were homeschooling them 20 years ago, they now have children of their own that they are homeschooling. These second generation homeschoolers’ experience looks much different from the experience of moms in my circle who were raised in our current educational system and are just starting homeschooling their children. I think in 100 years people will look back on history and be appalled that we locked our children up in internment camps for 8 hours a day 9 months out of the year.

    I also believe that as more homeschooled children come of age and go out into the workforce (as employees, military, entrepreneurs, etc.), that the fruits of this movement will be seen.

  10. To anyone saying “show me the money” that proves how bad unions are for any organization. Unions are about blackmail, nothing more.

    I work for a Fortune 500 Company. There are no unions here. If I said “show me the money” they would fire me…as they should. This clearly illustrates I care more about me than the organization. Come first to serve, to perform and the money will follow. That is how it works.

    Of course I care about myself, my paycheck, my bills, my debts/loans. We all do. That is why you work hard and through your work earn more money. If you are not being paid what you believe you are worth, then in an educational system free of unions, you would be able to go where you are valued. In a system run by a union they take that right away from you.

    Unions from the onset create an adversarial environment. And the biggest losers are the students.

    We can afford private education (thank the Lord!) but we won’t be pursuing that for our child. We are homeschooling because no one, preset curriculum, is best suited for any unique child. Homeschooling will allow us to let our child thrive.

    If schools offered freedom to follow each unique child’s need, that would be a nice start to fixing our horrific education system–made worse by Teacher’s Unions.

  11. Well, I agree with you, obviously. I would say that unions served a purpose at one time, when employees were mightily abused by businesses – but those times, at least in the United States and other “modern” nations, are done. Unions are generally about organized blackmail today, as you described. If they were not, then we might be having a different discussion. They’ve generally outlived not only their usefulness, but any real memory of why they exist in the first place, and the best thing we can do to unions like the teachers unions is simply close their doors.

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